We often talk about how the hijab is viewed negatively in the Western world. But I don’t think that many people realize that discrimination against the hijab doesn’t only happen in western society. In my experience, it also occurs in my home country, Pakistan, and my own family members are a part of the problem.
My sister and I started wearing the hijab when we were 15 and 13, respectively. For us, it seemed like a natural choice since we’d spent most of our childhood in Saudi Arabia, where the hijab was mandatory. When our family in Pakistan found out we still wore the hijab after moving to Canada in our teen years, they were ecstatic. They thought it was wonderful that we chose this for ourselves and praised us for making seemingly religious choices.
But that all changed when my sister turned 20 and someone tried to propose to her. Our mother rejected the engagement and it sparked a debate within our entire family. Most of them believed that more proposals would come her way if my sister took off her hijab. I still remember my mother arguing with our aunt who said that hijabs are only meant to look good on girls who are “white, thin, and pretty.” She thought that I was too dark and my sister was too fat, so we were ruining our prospects by sticking to our hijabs.
The worst part about all of this is that my aunt wasn’t entirely wrong. The hijab didn’t make men jump at the chance to marry us. Due to pressure from extended family members, my mother was constantly on the lookout for potential matches for my sister. But every guy who approached would run away just as fast once he heard that she wouldn’t be taking her hijab off for him.
After a while, my sister did it. She found a guy who seemed accepting of who she was and agreed to marry him after a year. Suddenly, the tune the family was singing changed, but not for the better. Everyone asked if she’d be taking her hijab off for the wedding and discussing how beautiful she would look in this or that hairdo. They tried to talk my mother into making my sister buy lehengas, which would show off her midriff and arms. This completely goes against the very purpose of wearing a hijab.
To reach a compromise with my family, I nominated myself as my sister’s makeup artist and hairstylist for the wedding day and began experimenting with different hijab styles. We naively thought that if we could show them that the hijab could be dolled up, they would accept her decision. They did not. In the end, when the engagement was broken off, they simply returned to their earlier comments about taking off the hijab to score a husband.
The sheer amount of criticism that came with all this has my sister unsure about whether she ever wants to have a wedding, let alone one in Pakistan with our family. It hurt to watch my sister try and deal with the harsh judgment and then come to realize that her opinions hold no value in our community. It hurts more to think that other Pakistani brides might have to put up with the same level of harassment all over one headscarf.
My sister was always much more staunch in her love of the hijab. Truth be told, I started wearing it on the condition that it would be pink and glittery. If you asked me just two years back, I might have given in to the family pressure and agreed to take off my hijab for my wedding.
Yet, knowing the struggle and judgment that comes with making a choice has given me an appreciation for the fact that it was a choice. However petty my reason is, it is my choice to put on the hijab, and I will be damned if I let someone else try to make decisions about my body and my attire for that one day in my life.
Now I can say with confidence that I will not be taking my hijab off for my wedding.
The idea of marriage and a wedding was never a question of if, but when. I grew up in a fairly conservative Pakistani household and I was very close to my mother. She has been my idol for all of my life, and I have wanted to live up to the image of the amazing woman who raised me. She came from a complicated family background, but she put her all into giving my siblings and me a stable upbringing and all the opportunities we could ever ask for. Somewhere along the way, I decided that she was the kind of person I needed to grow up to be, a kind-hearted mother who loves her children. Getting married and having children seemed like the future I should work towards, the ultimate goal in a way.
But of course, it didn’t end there. I grew up, like many young women, in love with Disney princess movies. Something about the fairytale stories of a young woman meeting a dashing prince, going on these fantastical adventures before ending with a huge, magical wedding just spoke to me. I spent most of my life believing in these dreams, thinking somehow that marriage and children would be the big thing I strived towards.
When my older sister received her first proposal, she was scared. She was concerned if they would be a good fit as a couple and worried over all these details of their life together that I couldn’t even understand. If anything, I was excited for her. This was it, her big wedding! I couldn’t care less about who he was as a person. I went ahead and planned all the details for her potential wedding. I pulled out all the stops for this supposed wedding, despite the fact that she never agreed to the engagement, and later went on to reject his proposal. I still have the document I typed up with pictures and wedding details. Each time some other guy came to propose to my sister, I would pull it out and add to it.
As the younger daughter, I’m not expected to get engaged or married until my older sister does. Add to that the fact that I was a med school hopeful for most of my time at university, and everyone assumed that I would not marry until later in life. I was fine with living vicariously through my sister until then.
Then at 22, I accidentally ended up engaged. It was a stupid move, and every friend I spoke to tried to warn me against it, but I didn’t care. In my family, an engagement is essentially the dating period. We don’t ever enter a relationship without the intention of marriage. But even considering that, this engagement was pretty casual. He was a friend of a friend. He didn’t even live close enough for the two of us to visit or meet up. In fact, during the two months of the relationship, I never once met him in person. We just talked over the phone and texted, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this wasn’t for me.
We met right around my birthday. He sent me this sweet and sappy message about how he was so glad to have me in his life. I felt so uncomfortable that my only reaction was to laugh out loud when I read it. No one understood it when I tried to explain how the message made my skin crawl. The more serious he got, the more I felt sick to my stomach. It’s not a feeling I can really put into words, but all the talk about our future, living together, and the hypothetical children I thought I wanted didn’t sit right with me when the words and ideas were coming from him.
But I still didn’t want to back out. I pulled out those plans for my sister’s wedding and began reworking them for my wedding. That feeling kept me in this relationship. But I knew it couldn’t last forever. He started getting clingy, he wanted to talk to me more. In hindsight, he was justified in asking for more of my time, but I wasn’t interested in him enough to care about his needs. I only saw him as becoming a hassle, someone I would have to tolerate instead of someone I would happily spend the rest of my life with. I once even told my mother that I’m more interested in trading him for a robot husband instead – I could have my wedding without dealing with another person in the mix.
It got messier after that, with several petty arguments left and right. There was one fight that he thought he could win by giving me the silent treatment. Unfortunately for him, that silence was everything I wanted. The next time we spoke, it fell into yet another argument. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and the whole thing was called off the next day. I happily moved on, packing up all my wedding plans and studying for the upcoming exams.
It’s been over a year since my engagement ended. I’ve spoken to several other potential suitors and it’s always the same. I stick it out for the idea of a pretty, magical wedding where I get to be a princess for the event. But inevitably, things break down and I move on to the next wedding plan.
I like the idea of love and romance. It sounds beautiful. But somehow, when actually faced with the realities of it and coupled with the responsibilities of marriage, I crack. I’ve never found myself capable of caring about these men the way they claim to care for me; they remain faceless entities I use to check off on my list of goals. It sounds callous, but it’s not that I want someone else to suffer for my little fantasy wedding. I don’t think I have the emotional energy to spare on someone else and I don’t know if I ever will.
And maybe that’s okay. I’m fulfilled by my family and my career aspirations. I am happy with life. And one day I’ll earn enough money and throw myself that big wedding and be my own princess.
Not to toot my own horn, but I think I give excellent dating advice. However, if you were to ask me for my dating credentials, I would hand you a blank piece of paper.
For some, being serially single is not a choice. But for me, it’s a lifestyle.
I have been single for all of my adult life, and I thoroughly enjoy the independence and solitude—which I know freaks people out. While some single people date, I do not.
So how does this make me—and other serially single people—expert at giving dating advice?
Let me let you in on a few secrets of the trade.
The first secret is not actually a secret but a well-known fact: Almost all forms of content are about love.
Even content that exists outside of traditional romance genres usually includes love and sex. For example, that action movie you just watched, was there a romantic arc in it?
Most movies, television shows, and books have provided blueprints for all kinds of relationships. A lot of these blueprints have helped me understand what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.
I’ve also read more than a fair share of fanfiction. Honestly, when you asked for my dating credentials, I could have sent you the link to AO3 and, if you’ve ever read any fanfiction, you’d have immediately understood why this gives me so much credible dating insight.
Even being someone who grew up alongside the Internet has made many of us mini experts on random topics. Most of us didn’t necessarily seek this information out; it just appeared on our Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram feeds.
Here’s the real secret: All relationships are the same.
Whether platonic or romantic, open or closed, monogamous or polyamorous, all relationships are made of the same ingredients. The dictionary definition of relationship describes the connection between people. And we all have experience with that. I may not date, but I do have lots of friends.
Some of my friendships have failed while others have thrived. This has helped me gain insight on communication, boundaries, and respect—insight that applies to both platonic and romantic relationships.
I’ve also watched most of my loved ones experience all kinds of different relationships. As you can imagine, being single gives those of us who are serially single plenty of free time to observe other people’s relationships—and, if you’re a Virgo like me, judge these relationships in order to perfect the advice we give to those who may (or may not) ask.
Just because your single friends haven’t dated anyone—casually, seriously, or at all—doesn’t mean we’re not familiar with the territory. All of our observations add to our dating advice credentials.
In fact, we’re kind of like therapists.
Because we’re removed from romantic situations, we have clarity uncolored by personal bias and experiences.
Most importantly, your serially single friends arguably have the most experience with prioritizing themselves and their needs. This makes us adept at keeping your best interests top of mind if you come to us for romantic advice.
We want you to be yourself and to love who you are. We will encourage you to take the time to learn more about your wants, needs, and goals before diving further into romance.
The best advice I can give as a serially single person is to try out being single. Being single has a lot of perks, the top of which is that it can give you the time, space, and energy to explore you who are.
I’m not saying everyone should be single. I’m just saying don’t knock it till you try it.
And, don’t worry. I promise I won’t say “I told you so” when you realize being single helped you become a better romantic partner.
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I got rid of my last photo of you, and I immediately regretted it. I realized that I will never be able to use the photos I took, documenting our love, as a bookmark.
I regretted that on any suspecting afternoon, with the sun gleaming just right twenty years from now, one of those photos will never fall out of an old book in front of my children and they won’t ask about the boy in the picture with curly hair and reddened cheeks.
I regretted it because you are – you were – my first love. And a person only gets one of those in a lifetime.
When I finally left I reacted curt toward you, almost passive or indifferent, because I didn’t want you to know that this was killing me too. Because I wanted to be strong – because the alternative was weak. Because we met un-intentionally and you immediately became forever etched into my soul.
I regretted it because we were damned from the start – because I found happiness in you before I found happiness in myself.
But, the reality is that I didn’t even know that I was looking for someone like you to save me from my misdirection. In fact, all I knew was that I liked the feeling in my stomach when your bright smile landed in my direction. I liked the comfort I felt in your eyes, I liked being desired. And, I liked how the beginning of our love story sprouted as if it were straight out of a Nora Ephron film.
The thing about those movies, however, is that they always ended just before the story actually began and reality set in.
For whatever reason, I thought myself righteous enough to pop our bubble. To be the one who decides that there is something better, grander, more extraordinary beyond the story of us.
So, I let it go. I convinced myself that I needed to get away so that I could start feeling again.
But seared inside my mind, hidden behind my self-proclaimed and glaring passions for the best love story known to man – and my belief that you couldn’t possibly give it to me – are the photos of you that I took in sepia. My hand on your chest. The back of your head against a sunset. Our hands holding one another. A kiss stolen in a gas station parking lot. Your eyes meeting mine with affection from the driver’s seat when we stopped at a red light and I told you to smile.
I regret that I didn’t give us the chance to seize just one more moment together. I regret that I didn’t give us a chance.
I know that you broke my heart in little ways for a long time, but I broke your heart in a big way all at once. One does not cancel out the other.
I loved you unconditionally. You knew it, too, but you lost me. I waited until I had enough and I left.
I realized that it is better to be single and search for myself, then to settle for something I feel insecure in.
Don’t get me wrong though. Our ending wasn’t nearly as tumultuous as I am making it out to be, nor as I would have liked it to be. One second we were, the next we were not. And that was it. We just ended. There was no thunder, no lightening. Nothing.
Even now as I am sorting through what exactly happened, I still can’t help but think that if you loved me the way you said you did you would have treated me the way you said you would.
I wouldn’t have had to beg.
Even when we did eventually try to talk about us, instead of ignoring the elephant in the room with banter or seduction, I’d be speechless. I didn’t know where to start.
But, please don’t mistake my silence for indifference. I do still love you. I always will, except it’s not the same. We spent so much time together and I know that I am saying so little right now to make up for it. I know that this is unbearable, but I promise you that every word I wish to utter to you is in my mind. I just can’t bring myself to speak when you look at me like that. When you draw yourself closer, it is a bribe which I can’t commit to. So please take a step back, I’m so tired of this. I am drained. If I stayed, I would spend a lifetime choking on words I wouldn’t ever dare to say.
I invested in you and I lost myself. I became dependent. And to be honest, this was the last thing I wanted. I spent close to a year relying on someone I didn’t want to rely on – nor could I. I knew it was the end long before you did, and I held on anyways, just in case, because I have a drastic fear of letting go and moving on.
But how can I reconcile breaking your heart and leaving everything we had together in just a few short minutes. You say that I took you by surprise, that you didn’t see it coming – but I don’t know how. I gave you all of the signs. You saw my silent tears. I always knew I wanted more. I was destined for something different. I felt it, deep in my bones, I just never faced it until I was forced to. I was able to ignore my confusion because we laughed with one another. We couldn’t take our hands off one another. We ran home in the pouring rain together, stopping only to kiss.
We experienced the best of one another for a short period of time, and I know that our relationship lasted as long as it was meant to. We loved each other until we couldn’t. We chewed us up and spit us out. We got everything we needed to get out of one another. We fell in and out of love from worlds apart. But I still feel terrible. And I feel like I should be feeling more even though I have been overcome with intense conflicting feelings every day since we said goodbye. Every day for close to a year.
I guess I just want you to know that I didn’t make this decision in haste. I needed to get away in order to understand more of myself.
I regret not thanking you enough for watching me blossom and believing in me so that I could believe in myself. I should have told you just how much you helped me realize the endless bounds of myself, for better or for worse.
I should have thanked you for letting me go, even though it hurt like hell.
I regret doing this to you because you waited for me. Because I gave you dozens of silent chances in my head. Because you would take me back in a second and I am here telling you that I am confused. That I need more time. That is – time to think. Time to learn and explore and dream. But all you hear is that I need to do all of these things away from you, that I need time alone. That I would rather work on building my sense of self alone than by your side.
But I deserve someone who makes me feel alive. Someone who is generous and who makes my heart jump when I tell people that they are mine. And you deserve someone who doesn’t give you an expiration date.
I am scared that maybe I made a mistake, that maybe I am foolish, or maybe that this is all that my love amounts to. I am having trouble accepting the normalcy of the end of us. The lack of explosion.
I am scared that I will forget. I am scared that after a few months everything we had will feel just like a dream. A dream that is open-ended, a dream that will constantly be on repeat in our respective minds until the end of time. Fated to carry each other’s baggage.
I regret that I now have to give you to someone else. That someone else will nuzzle into your chest, and devour your smell. I regret that I gave it all up so easily and have only in hindsight realized the weight of my naivety. Or did I? Because I also remember being so incredibly devastated, and being met with oblivion, with dismissive niceties. I remember my anxieties being belittled or made to feel small. I remember that I didn’t have the means, or the patience, to heal you.
I remember crying on the dance floor a year ago. Turning around so that none of my friends would see. I was staring at your messages. They were curt, broken and hard to make sense of. I remember being confused, I remember when someone told me for the first time that I deserved a love that was better. A love that nurtured. A love I didn’t have to settle for. A love that swept me off my feet.
I regret that we were different together than we were around everyone else. That no one got a real glimpse of us, in love. I regret being so quiet. I regret that I couldn’t love you like you loved me. I regret that you couldn’t love me the way I needed you to. I regret that we’ve run out of things to say.
I regret that our relationship was already broken even when your fingers were strumming through my hair or when we sat across from each other on the floor in a fit of laughter.
I regret knowing it was the end before you did, and holding on anyways just in case. I regret not telling you just how nervous I was and just how serious I was when I said that I thought we lost our spark. Our magic.
I regret it all because I wish that I held on to those pictures for a little while longer. I wish I studied them. Even though I knew the ending wouldn’t change.
Seeing you that day, when you came by to collect your things, actually helped me realize that I am better off without you. That I am happy now. Really happy. And I no longer doubt myself. I no longer rely on you for happiness. I no longer get angry or sad because you couldn’t make me happy.
In hindsight I had absolutely no idea who I was when I met you. I still really don’t. I’m not even sure that I knew what genuine happiness looked or felt like.
Maybe that’s what ruined us after all. My indifference. My sadness. All of which at the end of the day amounted to nothing.
Soon I will be able to think about you without ripping my heart out.
Taylor Swift may be a polarizing figure, but you can’t deny that she’s created her own space within the music industry’s revolving door.
Point blank PERIOD.
1. Her lyrics.
Who has ever been heartbroken and not cried to a Taylor Swift song? Taylor Swift’s lyrics are always incredibly honest and to the core. She writes about her personal experience and creates songs that everyone can relate to. She is also the queen of bridges. If you doubt me, check out theAll Too Wellbridge.
3. She invites fans to her house and bakes for them.
When Taylor was about to put out 1989, she was worried about what her fans would think about this full-on pop album. She decided to invite 89 of them to her house and play the album for them in a secret session.
Since then it has become a tradition for Taylor to choose fans from social media and play them her albums before their release date. She even bakes cookies for them! To date, these sessions have never resulted in her songs being leaked, which is a real testament to the love her stans have for her.
4. She filed and won a sexual assault lawsuit – all for a $1 settlement.
If you don’t know the story, this is how it goes: Taylor Swift went to court in 2017 against the Denver DJ David Mueller. Mueller had sued Taylor for defamation and losing his job after the singer had complained to his employer that he had grabbed her inappropriately during a photoshoot. The moment was caught on video and there were witnesses.
He asked for $3 million in compensation. Taylor filed a countersuit in response, claiming assault and only requested $1 in compensation to make a point.
I still get chills reading her testimony, especially in light of the fact that she won.
5. She was a ‘nice girl’ that learned to make her voice be heard, and let’s be real: we’ve all been there.
Her recent Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, is a reflection on how Taylor went from wanting to please everybody and being seen as a “good girl” to learning to be happy despite other people’s opinions.
The documentary — which has already reached critical acclaim, according to review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes — touches on a multitude of issues. And most of those issues aren’t pop star problems. They’re human problems.
6. She flipped the script on the bullying that people put her through, reclaiming the “snake” sign they used for her new signature.
After Kim Kardashian West “exposed” Taylor Swift’s supposed lies in a tweet about National Snake Day, Taylor’s social media was flooded by snake emojis. People used that emoji to call her fake.
Taylor disappeared from social media for a year after that but came back with a whole era based around snakes. She claimed an image that people used to bully her and turned her into her personal brand: there’s nothing more badass than that.
7. When she used the attention from Kanye’s leaked call to ask for donations, instead.
Continuing with the Taylor vs. Kim feud, in 2020, the full call between Kanye West and Taylor was finally leaked. It resulted in proving that she was telling the truth all along. Kanye never mentioned the line “that bitch” in the call.
Taylor then used all the media attention that she was getting because of the leaked call to ask people to donate money to Feeding America and The World Health Organization.
8. The Easter eggs. All the Easter eggs.
If you’ve ever followed the release of Taylor Swift’s music, you know that it is very similar to a treasure hunt. Taylor loves to leave clues and Easter eggs in her posts, songs, and music videos for her fans to find. And we love looking for them!
9. Taylor’s hard-hitting points in her acceptance speech during Billboard’s Women of the Decade Award.
Taylor Swift was awarded Billboard‘s first-ever Woman of the Decade, thanks to the singer’s vast musical accomplishments over the course of the 2010s. During her acceptance speech, she used the opportunity to call out sexism within the music industry.
She spoke out on the barrage of criticism typically accepted around women’s bodies and relationships. She called out Scooter Braun and the role of private equity in the music industry. It was an empowering and honest speech where she spoke out about issues of the music industry that are not commonly brought up.
10. The song Ronan and the story behind it.
One of Taylor Swift’s saddest songs is Ronan. She wrote this song using phrases from the blog of a fan that had lost her 4-year-old son, Ronan, to cancer. Taylor credited the fan, Maya Thompson, as co-writer and donated all the proceeds from the song to cancer charities. Taylor has only performed this song once, during a Stand Up To Cancer gala.
11. She has been honest about her struggle with her body image.
One of the most shocking scenes within Miss Americana is the moment that Taylor confesses that she had an eating disorder. She even pulls out a picture of herself and points out all that she hates about it before stopping herself.
“This would cause me to go into a real shame, hate spiral. I caught myself yesterday starting to do it and I said, ‘Nope. We don’t do that anymore. Because it’s better to think you look fat than look sick.’ There’s always some standard of beauty that you’re not meeting,” she said. “It’s all just fucking impossible.”
It shows that the biggest star on the planet is feeling the same insecurities and pressures that millions of people face. It’s important we reject society’s unrealistic expectations.
12. The “Taylor Swift effect” in voter registration.
In 2018, Taylor Swift broke her long-held silence with a post on her Instagram urging people to vote for the Democratic candidate in the Tennessee primaries. She stated all the reasons why she was voting for this candidate and reminded people to register if they wanted to vote.
However, many forgot that the song went along a Change.com petition for the Senate to pass the Equality Act, a law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation that had been approved by the House.
15. She was the sole writer in her third album, Speak Now.
Taylor’s greatest talent has always been songwriting. When people criticized her second album, Fearless, saying that such a young girl could not have written those songs, she decided to write her third album, Speak Now, all by herself. It is a masterpiece and shut up critics everywhere.
16. Taylor does free meet-and-greets for her fans.
Instead of requiring fans to pay for meet-and-greets, Taylor finds them on social media and the audience. Then she spends hours before and after every show hanging out with the Swifties. Know any other mega celebrity that does that? No? Thought so.
17. She calls out sexism.
She actively speaks out about sexism in the music industry, particularly how people criticize her for writing about her love life yet don’t do the same to male artists.
18. The Apple Letter and her defense of artists’ rights.
For years, Taylor’s used her influence to support artists. In 2015, Taylor wrote an open letter to Apple explaining why she was going to pull her albums from Apple Music. She criticized the policy of not paying artists during the free-trial period of the app. Apple changed its policy less than 24 hours after that.
The latest? In Taylor’s recent deal with Universal Records, she included a clause that stipulates that all of Universal’s artists will be compensated if the label sells its Spotify shares.
19. She is a proud cat lady.
Taylor’s cats are almost as famous as she is. Who could resist Dr. Meredith Grey, Detective Olivia Benson, and Benjamin Button?
20. She doesn’t take herself seriously.
Taylor Swift is hilarious. Who else would allow an ad like this one to air?
21. She wrote songs for both The Hunger Games and Hannah Montana: The Movie.
Two movies that symbolized our teenage years feature the musical genius of Taylor Swift. Who could forget about them?
She wrote You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home for Miley Cyrus, and wrote and performed Crazier. For The Hunger Games, she co-wrote and sang the masterpieces that were Safe and Sound with The Civil Wars and Eyes Open.
22. She made being 22 cool.
Who hasn’t sang along to Taylor’s song 22 on their birthday? Before her song, turning 21 was the biggest highlight of your early 20s. Then Taylor came along and reminded us that you can still party and have fun, no matter your age.
23. She taught Zac Efron how to play the guitar.
Vote for Taylor to star in a High School Musical remake?
24. THAT Miss Americana scene.
During Miss Americana, Taylor shows the moment when she stood up to her team and her own father and decided to make her political views public. It is a very emotional moment and I still cry every time I watch the scene.
25. Taylor is the first youngest woman in history to win two GRAMMY Awards for Best Album of the Year (plus a couple of others!).
The first album was awarded to her when she was just twenty, making her the youngest person to win this award (until Billie Eilish). We love us some successful women.
26. She stalks her fans on social media (in the nicest possible way!).
Taylor Swift recently offered financial help to fans who were left without work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, sending them $3,000 each.
She also has secret social media accounts where she follows her fans and sends them monetary help or concert invitations.
27. She made country music cool and then switched into a whole new music genre.
Taylor was a successful country artist and could have continued being one for years. Instead, she decided to take a leap and switch to pop, teaching us to not be afraid of change.
29. She taught me that it’s okay for people not to like you.
At the end of the day, the only person that needs to like you is yourself.
30. Her constant reinvention.
Any Taylor Swift fan will be able to recognize the year and album it is whenever Taylor posts a throwback photo. Taylor changes her style, hair, and aesthetic for every era she enters.
31. That time when she learned to apologize for apologizing and showed us that it’s okay to be angry.
During the last scene of Miss Americana, Taylor is seen ranting about sexism. Then she stops herself and apologizes for getting angry. A woman behind a camera tells her not to apologize because she is allowed to be angry. At that moment, Taylor recognized her moment to learn and took it to do so.
32. Last, but definitely not least, I’ll always love her for just how imperfect she is.
She hasn’t always used her voice, and she’s been involved in drama. But no one is perfect, and Taylor genuinely is someone who treats her fans and everyone the way they want to be treated — with respect.
The weight of it on your finger. The way it rubs against your skin. The glimpse of sparkle when you stand in the sun. The tiny rainbows you find on its diamond.
These daily reminders surprised me at first.
I thought I’d wear the ring, and it’d become a part of me. The same way you forget where you’ve put your glasses, then remember they’re on your nose.
For the 10 months I was engaged, it wasn’t like that at all.
The ring’s existence stuck out to me. Mostly, I wanted it to. I’d fiddle with it when I was nervous. I’d look at it when I felt low. It was a promise; things would be alright.
Because I had been chosen.
I had found someone to support me through thick and thin. A person willing to invest their whole life, and self, to be with me.
I had made it, at 27, to the camp of the ‘chosen ones’. Those women, pretty enough, good enough, worthy enough, to be proposed to. You know the ones on your social media feed. Smiling and showing off their rings on empty beaches and luscious trails.
Getting there meant I could breathe easier.
Because, like them, I had fulfilled a wish. One I didn’t know I had. To be freed from worry about getting to that part of my story. That narrative I share with all of womanhood. To be chosen, promised marriage, and the happily ever after.
I was never one to buy into the fairy tale. Yet the sense of calm I felt post-engagement was unmistakable. It was a resolution to the subconscious, but surely there, discomfort of waiting to be chosen.
As a feminist and young woman, I never thought of marriage. In fact, I was repulsed by the routine questions about my relationship status. Conversations started and ended there. Anything else about me didn’t matter to my extended family.
Yet, here I was. Engaged and relieved.
Until I wasn’t.
Getting closer to happily ever after than I had ever been, I failed to see it. The irony of it was tragic.
Faced with impeding marriage, reality had struck me. The fantasy was over. If I couldn’t imagine being happy with my would-be husband 30 years down the line, what was I doing?
Being chosen had guided my life, unbeknownst to me, and it wasn’t a good story after all.
Weeks and months of panic and despair followed. I clung to the idea that all I had to do was open the search again. Start over. Find someone more compatible. And wait to be chosen again. I hadn’t lost my chance at happiness. It was a delay. One that sent me into crying fits on the bus. And one that made me ask myself “what have I done?” too many dark nights, clutching a ring I couldn’t give back yet.
I knew then, as I do now, that you need to be happy on your own. But trying, really trying, meant letting go once and for all of the easy story. The romance script I had failed at.
Did I want to follow it again? And delay my happiness? Wait for prince charming number two?
No, I wanted to be happy now. And only, I, could see to that.
Getting there may seem harder but in the end, it’s the only happiness worth anything. Forcing myself to see my previous engagement for what it was took me a while. A whirlwind of romance I had gotten lost into, believing fantasy would turn to reality.
Getting a ring, and wearing it was a powerful artifact of the cultural narrative I never thought I’d be one to buy into. It made me confront the internalized stories I didn’t know I had.
I’m afraid we all have them to some level. I didn’t dare admit to myself that I wanted to find my forever partner before I was 30. I didn’t dare admit I wanted to be chosen. And that I wanted these things like a child wants candy. Because it tastes good in the moment.
It’s embarrassing, looking back.
Yet, I wouldn’t change things. I would end my engagement again. It led me through the worst and best moments of my life. Confronting and losing my shoddy illusion about happiness in favor of something real.
Next time I get engaged, if that ever happens, I’ll be the one to ask. Because I’ve chosen myself already and it’s time to write my own story.
For the most part, the statement has become a joke amongst a younger generation that doesn’t buy into the same notion of there being a Right Time, but that doesn’t change how earnestly the statement is said.
The logic that is often utilized during these conversations is that the first twenty-odd years of your life weren’t the right time to be on the lookout for a significant other because education had to be your priority.
Now, more than ever, young people can choose to be equal partners in life.
“Getting friendly” with someone during your school days or having “special friends” were largely frowned upon, and involved a web of deceit in order to pull it off (shoutout to the many relationships that flourished and died without any parent knowing who their offspring was pledging their undying love to).
The focus on education will last right up until you graduate university and get handed your diploma and that’s when suddenly the stars align and then?
It. Is. Time.
Aunties go from asking you about school and your career plans to rooting out prospective husbands. Rising up out of the cracks to tell you about these nice boys (men) that they know of that have no other compatibility besides….existing at the same time?
While education does need to be a priority for many of the early years of any individual’s life, education isn’t a dead-end that can be ticked off a bucket-list as soon as your diploma gets handed to you. It’s not a title you can stick in the matrimonial section of the Sunday newspapers.
If anything, life post-graduation is when you really need to be focusing on yourself. Figuring out what you want to do and where you want the education you worked for to take you.
The part of your life where you’re working towards your goals isn’t over once you take off the cap and gown. There’s no way to overstay your welcome or reach a limit on your own personal goals.
What the Right Time is ignoring is that none of us are going to university for 3, 4, 6(!) years just to make our exit and go straight down the aisle.
Aunties go from asking you about school and your career plans to rooting out prospective husbands.
Even the many people who don’t actually believe that marriage is an immediate priority still perpetuate the notion that post-graduation is The Time to Start Looking.
Aunties please, we had more time and opportunity to interact with people our own age back in the education stage. Post-grad, we just want to be employed. So thank you for the heads up about prospective SO’s being around every corner just waiting to be discovered, but now is not the time.
The whole concept seems to belittle the career trajectory a woman may aspire to, and subscribe to a reality that was valid just a few generations ago when there was no way a woman could support herself or be economically independent without being married, but this is simply not the case anymore.
Now, more than ever, young people can choose to be equal partners in life. A step in the right direction for all genders, and rendering the Right Time to be married a myth.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are good intentions behind the preaching of the Right Time. It’s based on their own experiences and a belief that life isn’t truly complete without being married and producing offspring. But times have changed and there’s more than one way to find independence and fulfillment in life.
The focus on education will last right up until you graduate.
There’s also no better time than post-graduation to figure out exactly who you are as an individual, and how you want your life to be before you consider conscientiously stepping out to find someone to complement that (or discover that you don’t want that at all).
There’s no Right Time, the time is right when you want it to be.
A few years ago, I was lamenting my perpetual singledom, when a friend asked me, “But do you think you have space for love, or a relationship in your life?” The answer was – and arguably still is – no.
I like being busy and hate being idle. I’ve always been this way. At the time, I was studying my master’s, acting as editor-in-chief of a student newspaper, running a freelance illustration business, and tutoring a journalism course at my university. I didn’t have time for a relationship. I was goal-oriented, and a relationship didn’t form part of that goal.
Fast forward to today. My life is just as full, if not fuller. I work a full-time job as a graphic designer, my freelance illustration business is still steaming ahead, I run a few half marathons a year, and I recently started writing for The Tempest.
I’m busy. Like, really busy. Weird flex, right?
Am I really too busy for love?
I love being busy. But I also love love, and I wish I could find a balance between the two. After my friend suggested I didn’t have space in my life for love, I bought a double bed. I thought maybe if I had the physical space for a relationship, I’d make space in my life for one.
We are always able to make time for our priorities.
But physical space doesn’t translate into what I think of as ‘life-space’. Life space is about priorities. We are always able to make time for the things we deem important. We are always able to make time for our priorities. And I didn’t know if making space for love was my priority.
When my friend suggested I didn’t have space in my life for a relationship, my priority was my university degree. Now, my priority is my career.
I’m currently at a point where I need to diversify my priorities. Striking a work-life balance can be tricky, and is something I need to work on. As somebody with a tendency for burnout, I’m always being told to take it easy, to find a balance between work and play.
I’m on a bit of a mission to find a work-life balance that will allow me to make space in my life for a relationship.
I’m on a bit of a mission to find a work-life balance that will allow me to make space in my life for a relationship. (Although there’s kinda this global pandemic going on that’s made it a bit weird and tricky).
Here are four things I’ve tried, and whether they’ve been personal victories or failures:
1. I tried taking dating apps more seriously
I’m notoriously bad at replying to men on dating apps. In fact, my dating app bio is home to the words, “Bad at writing captivating bios, worse at texting strangers. But also very alone, so maybe I’ll learn.”
I decided to be more conscientious about replying on dating apps, but I find it difficult to find the time and effort to converse with people who I don’t care for. This helped me learn that in order for me to make space in my life for somebody, I need more of a connection than a superficial right-swipe.
2. I created some work-life boundaries
I made some work-life rules for myself which – admittedly – worked better before we all started living in perpetual quarantine. One rule that I’ve kept up is that I’m no longer allowed to use my laptop in bed. My work can only happen at my desk, and my bed is exclusively a place of rest. Creating small boundaries like this one work as small steps towards making more space for things that are not work. My hope is that by making more of this kind of space, I’ll also make space for love.
3. I’m learning to say “no”
I developed a habit of saying yes to every bit of work that comes my way. This has meant that I often find myself drowning in work.
I’m trying to break this habit, and learning to say “no” to work that doesn’t serve me. As a freelancer, you have as much right to be picky with what work you take on, as a client has to be picky when it comes to who they hire. A good exercise in this process was to make a list of work that makes me happy, and work I find tedious. I only take on the tedious work if I have the time. Only doing work I love means that I have more time for the work I love, and the people I love.
4. I’m also making more time for the people I love platonically
I enjoy making people feel loved, but sometimes I find myself prioritizing my work over my family and friends. Finding a work-life balance is also about making sure the people I care about know that I care about them. Making life-space for my loved ones used to mean making time to see them face-to-face over a coffee. In quarantine, it means making time for video calls, sending them memes, and reminding them that they’re doing okay. By making space for my loved ones, I’m slowly making more space for romance. Or at least, I hope I’m doing that!
I’m learning that love is a priority of mine. So, making time for love should be a priority of mine, too.
These are the lyrics that 25-year-old pop star Ariana Grande broke the internet with in her music video for “thank u, next” that premiered Friday evening. For anyone who has been living under a rock, Ari’s new hit single is about thanking her ex-boyfriends for all they have offered her, but now moving on from these relationships as a proud single woman.
The five-minute video managed to break records as the most viewed Youtube Premiere video of all time. People across the globe were even throwing premiere parties with all their closest friends in order to sit at the edge of their seats and watch with beaming faces as their favorite singer graced the screen.
Fans of Ariana were ecstatic to see the pop artist replicating iconic movie characters from all of the quotable films of their youth and inserting pop culture references that shine a whole new light on the brand classically known by the world as the “chick flick”. It is commonly expressed by society to label a chick flick as less than, a cheap film by patriarchal standards that is, simply and derogatorily, “girly”. In “thank u, next”, Grande takes the derogatory term and flips it on its head. Paying homage to movies that our generation has grown up with, these empowering films include (but are not limited to) Mean Girls, Bring It On, Legally Blonde, and 13 Going On 30.
It is a video filled with community, excitement, hope, and celebration. Yet as charming as the movie references and celebrity cameos in Ariana’s video are (and they are very charming indeed), the best part about her smash hit video is watching as Ari embarks on her authentic journey to self-love in the face of pain.
We all have to face heartbreak at some point, whether it be a breakup with a romantic partner or a falling out with a close friend. As most of us know, it’s a terrible feeling to lose someone who was once a significant part of your life. In a way, it can almost feel like you are losing a big part of yourself in the process. This can easily cause us to feel lost, and in a desperate effort to feel “found” we sometimes will search for external sources in order to make us feel complete again. If a partner breaks up with us, we immediately look for another one. “thank u, next” teaches us to find that kind of love within ourselves before scouting for validation from another person.
I remember that feeling of significant loss hovering over me after going through a terrible breakup with my first love. I would just find myself trudging through life like some kind of zombie, emotionless, feeling like I was only half of the person I used to be when I was still with that partner. Who was I without my other half? What kind of person was I to become? My whole world felt as though it had come crashing down, with my expectations of security and comfort evaporating all at once.
Yet as terrible and incomplete as I felt at first, there was still a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. I knew that because I was no longer tied down to anything, I now had the entire universe at my fingertips. I could finally take whichever path I liked, wander down whichever road, and knowing that alone was the most liberating feeling. Was I terrified to suddenly have all of this freedom? Of course. But it was a brilliant kind of terrifying, the kind that only creeps up when you’re in the process of pure growth.
In that process of growth, I was finally able to take all that love I had for my ex and manifest it into myself. The journey to self-love is a difficult one, but once you embark on it, you will feel more empowered and dignified than ever before.
In a lot of ways, I wish Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” would’ve come out sooner. Its classy message of learning to be thankful for what you’ve lost, regardless of how much of hurt you, is an important one. It teaches us to look back on our past relationships with gratitude and poise, rather than spite. It teaches us to put all of that energy we could be wasting on anger and hate into self-love and appreciation.
If we can learn to love and appreciate what we have to offer the way Ari teaches us to, we will turn out amazing! So go ahead, embark on that journey of self-love and gratitude. As soon as you do, you’ll have the universe at your fingertips.
When I was 16, one of my best friends said she doubted that I would ever get married.
“It’s because of your liberal views,” she said. “Men don’t really think that way.”
I was hurt by this statement. But I didn’t believe it. I thought of my hometown, a small South African town, as a place with mostly narrow-minded people with an apartheid-era mindset. I thought my love life would look far more promising once I got out.
“Just wait until I go to university,” I thought.
And eventually, I did leave for university. I packed my bags and moved towns to pursue a degree in journalism.
I met men who were feminists. I met people in interracial relationships. I watched theater productions about confronting your own white privilege. I protested against rape culture on campus. I was around the enlightened, and my perfect man was somewhere in the crowd.
Except he wasn’t.
Politics is cool when you’re in university, and so is activism. But there’s a time and place for it. In class. At protest meetings. But not so much in social settings.
I met boys. I went out and got drunk on a regular basis in my first-year. There were drunken hookups. Boys have, for the most part of my life, taken an interest in me. Up until the point of politics.
Often boys have initiated conversations with me. It must be fun to watch. At some point, the conversation moves towards interests and I talk about politics and social justice. One of two things happen. Their eyes glaze over and slowly they make their way out of the discussion. Or they entertain me and even challenge my ideas. It’s fun. But that’s all.
It’s very seldom that someone will follow up their pursuit after they have heard me talk politics. And so, I’ve stayed single – but I’m okay with that.
Social psychologists from the University of Buffalo studied the reactions of men to women who appeared smarter than them. They found that men found smarter women attractive from a distance but less so when they came into close contact with them. I don’t know whether men find me smarter than them. But I do know that most men are uncomfortable with the way I engage in conversations.
My friends used to warn me about avoiding discussing social issues at events. “You always talk about such serious topics. It’s depressing,” they’d say. “Guys find it intimidating when you talk about intellectual stuff.”
They’ve mostly given up warning me since I ended up talking about politics anyway, even though I used to try not too. I used to try to be less opinionated. Less vocal. Post less on Facebook and talk less about social injustice.
But I can’t, and I won’t. And that’s okay.
I have always been interested in social affairs. This interest is not limited to my studies or writing. It follows me around during my shopping trips, my travels and yes, even my nights out.
My interests in social issues often paint me as the angry feminist. And it’s true, I am angry. Angry at the many ways society has failed marginalized groups. But I don’t direct this anger to people who engage with me, I simply explain it.
Apparently, that’s not cool. In fact, there’s even research to show how badly society responds to angry women. A paper in the journal Law and Human Behavior presents a study that has shown that when women express anger in a group discussion it undermines the argument to the group. The opposite is the case for men and their anger validates the argument. It’s a narrative most women are familiar with. The angry woman is often portrayed as being emotional and hormonal rather than legitimately angry.
In a Medium post, Sana Saeed wrote that caring about politics is shorthand for, “I care about what happens to people and how our world functions.” For that very reason, I can’t pretend to be apathetic about social injustice and I can’t truly be happy with someone who is indifferent.
I hope that in an era of social justice and women’s rights, women will no longer feel the need to suppress the parts of them that make them appear intimidating and thus undesirable. But until then, I am happier being angry and intimidating on my own.
Valentine’s Day is coming up – lovebirds and palentines – follow along with our Vday series right here.
Valentine’s Day, is, in my opinion, kind of a trash holiday. The day itself is supposedly rooted in violence and sacrifices, according to one source, and although it has evolved into an opportunity to show affection, Valentine’s Day is so heavily commercialized that it lost its good intentions a long time ago. Think: White Castle reservations and endless jewelry commercials. The holiday is also promotes, almost exclusively, heteronormative narratives, which isn’t cool either.
If you’re single, Valentine’s Day and the hype around it can be stressful, obnoxious, or even triggering. At the very least, it can feel like a day that you’re not “allowed” to participate in, even though that’s completely false. If dating isn’t your thing, if you’re grumpy about Valentine’s Day in general, or if you’re looking for ways to show yourself love on February 14, we’ve got a list for you.
1. Take yourself out to eat because you earned it
So what if everyone is dining out with their significant others? If you want a medium-rare steak, by all means, go to Ruth’s Chris and order one. Going to a restaurant alone may seem awkward at first, but after you realize that you’re the best date you could ever ask for, it’s a lot less intimidating.
2. FaceTime a single long-distance friend so you can bitch about Valentine’s Day together
Since all your friends who are ~in relationships~ will have no time for you on this bogus holiday, this is the perfect time to reach out to friends who have moved away due to work, school, etc. Complain about those shitty NECCO heart candies that are hard enough to break teeth and the fact that capitalism has ruined love for you.
3. Enjoy a glass (or a bottle) of wine by yourself
I think many of us would be lying if we said we’d never consumed a whole bottle of sweet red or Riesling (it can’t be just me) by ourselves on a night in after a crappy day at work or a week of exams. Or, you know, just because. No significant other? Perfect. More wine for you. Indulge yourself.
[bctt tweet= “No significant other? Perfect. More wine for you. Indulge yourself.” username=“wearethetempest”]
4. Get a massage to relieve the irritation of seeing happy couples everywhere
On a more serious note, massages do provide many legitimate benefits. They can ease stress, promote flexibility, decrease migraines, and improve blood circulation. They are great for self-care because they have positive impacts on both your physical and mental health. I love lying around and being pampered, so a massage kills two birds with one stone.
5. Take a salt bath and float away from your problems
No, really, float spas are a thing, and I didn’t know this until recently. Float therapy involves pouring large quantities of Epsom salt into water in pods or dark rooms. The result is that you feel completely weightless when floating. Float therapy is good for meditation, joint pain, and stress relief. I know friends who have done it, and they say it’s trippy but amazing.
[bctt tweet= “I love lying around and being pampered, so a massage kills two birds with one stone.” username=“wearethetempest”]
6. Netflix and chill…
…by yourself. While other people are giving cheesy gifts to each other and showing uncomfortable amounts of affection, show your Netflix account some love by starting a new show or catching up on a series that you’ve neglected. There’s no shame in loving your TV and your bed.
7. Get outdoors and away from people
If it’s warm enough in your part of the world, rent a kayak or a paddleboard and enjoy some peace and quiet on the water. Take a hike, walk your dog, or escape to a park where you can sit and enjoy the stillness and reflect on how great it is to be single. Other humans can get annoying. It’s refreshing to go off the grid, if only for a couple of hours.
[bctt tweet= “Escape to a park where you can sit and enjoy the stillness and reflect on how great it is to be single.” username=“wearethetempest”]
8. Start a new art project
If you’re creative and know how to paint, draw, sculpt, sew, knit, carve, or any other artsy endeavor, use the evening to begin a new piece of work. The best I can do is draw a second grade-esque stick figure with stringy hair and dots for eyes, so if you have the talent, please let me live vicariously through you.
9. Write your autobiography because you’re incredible
Reflect on how flawless your single self is this Valentine’s Day and write about it so the world knows. Or, of course, just write in general. No matter your chosen genre, it can be difficult to find time to write and edit your work, so being alone on Valentine’s Day gives you a prime opportunity to sit down and make progress.
10. Nap because sleep is better than jewelry from Zale’s
I’m certainly biased, but let’s be real. No one ever said, “I got more than enough sleep last night!” so why would you pass up an opportunity to crawl into your cozy bed and ignore all your responsibilities?
Spending quality time with yourself on Valentine’s Day can be fun, liberating, and stress-free. If you’re single, take time to love yourself.
Whenever anyone talks about arranged marriages my first instinct is to cringe and think about all the things that were wrong with it. I couldn’t understand why two complete strangers would commit to spending the rest of their lives together. I am barely comfortable changing my clothes in front of some of my friends, so I could never imagine being so intimate with someone I only met recently.
[bctt tweet=” I couldn’t understand why two complete strangers would commit to spending the rest of their lives together. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
Conversations about marriage started coming up in my family as my sisters and I got older. Some of my family members would sit my older sisters down and tell them about how they heard about some guy from their friend who knew a woman, who knew another woman, who had a cousin whose son was looking for a wife. My sisters hated the idea of being set up, but they reluctantly accepted every time.
Since it worked out for so many women, they thought it would be a good idea to try. It’s common for family members and friends to introduce two people to who are both looking to settle down.
They would meet the men and their families and sit down for conversations to get to know each other more. This allowed them the chance to get to know the guys before they decided whether they were interested in them.
Sometimes they don’t even want to meet them for a second time, and other times they see potential.
[bctt tweet=”Sometimes they don’t even want to meet them for a second time, and other times they see potential. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
The younger generations in Muslim countries are becoming less conservative because many of them want to marry for love. They are choosing to let go of tradition, so many have opted to try “halal dating.”
[bctt tweet=” They are choosing to let go of tradition, so many have opted to try ‘halal dating.'” username=”wearethetempest”]
Halal dating is a modern version of arranged marriages where the couple can spend time together and get to know each other before deciding to commit. This is being practiced by families who still want their children to maintain traditional Islamic values, but at the same time understand the need for young couples to get to know each other before they committing to something as big as marriage.
Let’s call it: The Bachelor: Halal Version.
[bctt tweet=”Let’s call it: The Bachelor: Halal Version.” username=”wearethetempest”]
The cheesy romantic in me prefers to hopelessly fall in love with someone before being swept up in the overwhelming tide of marriage, but I’m happy that this kind of dating exists. By allowing Muslims to get to know each other before marriage without having to feel like everyone is judging them, we are giving these marriages a better chance at success. Besides, Islam does encourage that two people get to know each other even only slightly before agreeing to the marriage.
I think a lot of young women find this to be a great way to meet possible partners instead of having someone they barely know forced upon them. This way, they can discuss their likes and dislikes, future plans, hopes, and dreams, and form a bond.
Hopefully, more people will realize the importance of allowing young people to get know each other before they make a serious commitment.